excerpted from caro's journal: topic: now in bloom on my patio

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2001_05_21:18: Pah

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now in bloom on my patio
All fuchsias except for "Guinevere," "Dollar Princess," "Golden Marinka" are in full bloom. "Blue Eyes" and "Winston Churchill" are loving the marine layer. "Blue Satin" has exploded from a one-inch sprout to a three-foot blooming plant in just one month. The one I thought would be "Swing Time" turned out to be "White Pixie" instead, and it looks like a little christmas tree covered with bubble-gum-pink-and-white ornaments. "Dusky Rose" has so many blossoms on it that you can't see the pot. "Voodoo" had the hardest time with the recent fertilizer attack; I've moved it from the patio up to the shower window, where it is recuperating and has just slitted one very fat bud. I took several cuttings from the few fuchsia branches that weren't loaded with buds and stuck them in a terrarium. The flowers sometimes drop from the fuchsias before they have faded; I gather these up and set them in a small bowl of water on my desk for an unusual upside-down view.

The calamondin is blooming and making fruits; I'm still taking the fruits away from the orange because the plant is too skinny to hold them up. All sign of citrus bud mite is gone from all the citrus, including the lemon, which was the original culprit.

Fragrant blooms: Big shots this month: trachelospermum, calamondin, orange, dark purple petunias, pink stock, freesia, hybrid tea rose "Tropicana," honeysuckle, alyssum. The pittosporum and the boronia are just finishing.

Fragrant plants gearing up: Night blooming jasmine. The pink striped boronia is making a comeback and just starting to show buds. The miniature gardenia has at least 100 buds; "Mystery" has about 30. South African jasmine preparing 200-300 buds. Stargazer lillies each have 3 or 4.

Just color: Bougainvillea "San Diego Red"--main branch has persistently bloomed for months, and now has sent out about ten side-stalks, all blooming. Martha Washington geranium "Morwenna" , alyogyne, maroon and yellow dahlia, bougainvillea "Raspberry Ice", yellow epidendrum, impatiens in all colors, ivy geranium in white with red, feijoa tree, orange hibiscus, blue vinca, solanum jasminoides, bougainvillea Rosenka, solanum rantonnetii, scaevola, chrysanthemum, cyclamens, yellow euryops daisy tree, pomegranate, yellow and pink kalanchoes, orange tuberous begonia, half the primroses, cistus purpureus, blue felicia, sedum morganianium, lobelia, lotus, calla lillies. Still a few blooms on both white and red leptospermum scoparium.

Expecting this month: pandorea jasmonoides, gladiolus, bignonia riversii, hibiscus syriacus, nerium, mandevillea.

Hoping for next month: plumeria, yellow hibiscus, stephenotis, white wing hibiscus, variegated Raspberry Ice, bougainvillea Texas Dawn (resting). No signs yet of red tuberous begonias or tuberoses.

Blooming Indoors: the unstoppable fragrant spathophyllum in south-west shaded room; red anthurium in north-east bright window; nemantanthus in north-east filtered sun window; columnea in sunny south-west window. Phalenopsis in dark south-west window has made one new leaf.
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2001_05_22:20: What You Make Of It

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'Litter' is a funny word to a plant-lover, even one who is in the landscape design business. My clients frequently tell me that they want a tree that blooms but they don't want "litter." By 'litter' they mean that the tree drops bits of itself on the ground. Blossoms on the ground is the kind of thing I barely notice. Right now, with the fuchsias, the feijoa, the impatiens, the freesia, the Martha Washington geranium, the bougainvilleas, the brunfelsia, the star jasmine, and the honeysuckle in full bloom, the cement surface of my patio is as colorful as the as the the plants themselves. But that's how it is. There's no such thing as a blooming plant that doesn't drop blooms. Either you accept the litter as part of the package, or you don't really want a garden.

Showcase idea: Many La Jolla home owners have "gardeners" (aka day laborers)come once a week because they like the neighbors to see that they have lots of people working for them on a regular basis. That makes the idea of a low-maintenance garden seem rather pointless to some people. They allow the day laborers to hack at their plants because it makes them look busy, and the day laborers are happy to do it, again, because they know it makes them look like they are doing something.

But day laborers don't know anything about plants, and only make the property look like it's been hacked at by cheap laborers. The solution? Get a lot of plants and trees that bloom all year. Tell the day laborers to leave their sharp instruments in the truck, and only let them bring brooms and rakes onto the property. Since they are in fact day laborers and not gardeners, it won't make any difference to them to spend their time sweeping up blossoms instead of shaving the bushes into awkward shapes. When it's really time to prune (ONCE a year), get a real professional to come in for the day, preferably right before the day laborers come with their brooms. Your neighbors will see that you not only have the most beautiful blooming garden in town, but that you have lots of very busy workers "maintaining" it. And the best part is that, with all that sweeping, they won't have the opportunity to butcher your plants. This way, you can simultaneously have a lush, low-maintenance, colorful garden, AND spend a lot of money on pointless labor!

Just noticed that the tibouchina has fat buds, which I expect will open this month. The rose should probably be moved from its five gallon pot to a seven-gallon. The apartment manager has just warned me that his own day-laborers will be by this month, and, given that they don't understand English, will not be able to follow his directions not to cut down my potted honeysuckle blooming just outside the yard. He agreed to help me move it onto Rosey's patio until the day laborers are gone, then move it back. Last year I raised holy hell when they "trimmed" my magnificent arbor full of morning glory, cutting the vines right in the middle and leaving them hanging brown from the pergola. The day laborers are now terrified of me. But terror alone does not make them understand how to take care of plants; only horticultural education and experience can do that, and that's not likely to happen as long as people continue to hire unskilled laborers to do their "gardening."

Your garden is your public face. Make it good.
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2001_04_06:16: Personality Tests

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First bloom of fuchsia Dollar Princess (deep purple in deep fuchsia pink) opened today; Blue Eyes, Winston Churchill, Dusty Rose, Southgate all started. First freesia blossom will open tomorrow--looks like yellow. All wisteria buds have opened.
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The freesia weren't supposed to bloom so many at a time. I can't breathe with all that perfume in the air.
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2001_04_02:23: One Little Academic.html

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I am surprised and overwhelmed by the penetrating fragrance of the boronia. There are other flowers mixing with it right now; but I was shocked when the first single 1/4-inch flower opened and the scent from that tiny pink object wafted off the patio and filled the house. It's quite as strong as nightblooming jasmine (cestrum), but without the tendency to suffocate. When I got the tiny boronia (6 inches tall) a year and a half ago, its four small flowers seemed like they might have a little sweet fragrance, but I couldn't say for sure. Now I realize that the plant was just tired and downtrodden at the time. With combined chemical fog spewing out of the wisteria, pink jasmine, and alyssum, unwary neighbors don't have a chance. Traffic jams form in the parking lot as people are arrested by the cloud eminating from the patio. They comment loudly; if I'm in my outdoor office, they stop to chat, each offering their theories as to what plant it might be, though none of them have ever heard of a boronia before and prefer to insist that it is coming from something that I don't own. I think I've met more of my neighbors since the boronia opened than I've met in the entire four years I've lived here.

Others? Too many to describe. I simply list for the purposes of my garden almanac:

Just getting started this month


  • wisteria (pale lavender)
  • petunias (deep purple)
  • cistus (pink with maroon spots)
  • boronia (deep magenta)
  • pittosporum (white)
  • tea rose (orange)
  • navel orange (white)
  • calamondin (white)
  • honeysuckle (white with yellow)
  • brunfelsia (purple fades to blue fades to white)

Just color

  • vinca (blue)
  • felicia (blue and yellow)
  • Martha Washington geranium (maroon and black)
  • fuchsia
  • epidendrum (yellow)
  • bougainvillea Raspberry Ice
  • yellow kalanchoe
  • rhaphiolepsis

Still in bloom from last month


  • bouvardia (white)
  • pink jasmine
  • hyacinth (pink)
  • matthiola (stock, pink with white)
  • alyssum (white)
  • camellias (Kramer's Supreme, Sport, white with pink border)

Just color

  • bougainvillea San Diego Red
  • pink kalanchoe
  • hibiscus (yellow, orange)
  • impatiens (neon pink, purple, salmon, red&white candystripe)
  • alyogene
  • primroses (purple, yellow, pink, red, orange)
  • ivy geranium (white with red scribbles)
  • euryops daisy (all yellow)
  • lotus (orange with red and yellow)
  • tea trees (white and deep red)
  • azaleas (purple, pink with red border, salmon)
  • Persian nightshade
  • potato vine (white)
  • cyclamen (white, magenta, pink, white with magenta border)
  • tuberous begonia (orange)

In full bud

  • freesia (all colors)
  • pomogranite
  • gardenia Radicans
  • gardenia Mystery
  • feijoah
  • chrysanthemum (dusty maroon, white)
  • columnea (orange)

Expected next month

  • bouvardia (pink and white candystripe)
  • hibiscus syracuse (fluffy white)
  • distictus riversii (reddish purple with yellow center)
  • plumbago (sky blue)
  • stargazer lily (an early one from last two years)
  • South African jasmine (white)
  • gladiolus (all colors)
  • bougainvillea Rosenka (swirled orange/rose/yellow)
  • bougainvillea Texas Dawn (pale pink deepens to fuchsia)
  • mandevillea (white with yellow center)
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The New Zealand Tea Tree (Leptospermum scoparium Ruby Glow) is in full stunning bloom, standing about 7 feet tall in its 4-gallon pot. Cherry red double blossoms of rose form, with a big black seed pod in the middle, absolutely smother the branches, obscuring the needlelike leaves. Still skrawny and leggy, it seems to be a happy little thing, and I've managed to get the wet and dry seasons simulated just right to make it do this: dry in the summer during the long days, wet in the winter. It's soaking up water like mad now, as the double white (whose name I can't remember at the moment) is gearing up for its second burst.

The "Yuletide" Camellia, in a 2-gallon pot, just finished and is ready to be pruned. "Marie Bracey," a double rose form bright pink japonica, has been in bloom steadiy for the past three months in its original 1-gallon pot, with almost as many buds as leaves. "Kramer's Supreme," a huge frilly double red rose form with a lovely fragrance, is just this weeks straining to open its first two blossoms of the winter. And my mystery Camellia, which I've never seen bloom but guess from the buds to be double white or very light pink, will most likely display this month.

The yellow Euryops daisy tree has been in full bloom since summer. Rescued from my neighbor's yard and stuck in a 15-gallon pot, it remained leafless for about 6 months until it decided to stay and be happy. Now it's 6 feet tall, lush with dark green leaves and all-yellow flowers.

Bougainvillea "San Diego Red," rescued from another neighbor's yard and also bare for about 6 months afterward, has grown 15 feet in the past year and is covered in fire-engine red blossoms.

Azaleas "Happy Days" (double purple), a copper-pink, and a very frilly bright pink with white edges are all entering the spring full-bloom.

Last year's experiment with primroses in one gallon pots went well; these plants, which would have been temporary anywhere but in southern California, bloomed almost all year, and right now they are blooming their hardest in every color from blue to red to pink to yellow. They make an especially nice display at night under the spot light.

This year's biggest experiment is a potted deciduous magnolia tree, just acquired this week in full bud. I tried to resist buying a tree expected to grow to 20 feet when planted in a lawn, but the smell of the one 10-inch white-and-purple flower made me circle the garden center three times until I finally came up with enough rationalizations. After all, the wisteria has been happy in its 15-gallon pot for the last three years, so why not keep the magnolia bansai-style? And besides, I could never see the point of having those lovely flowers anywhere from 20 to 90 feet above people's heads; better to keep it small, where I can bury my face in the blossoms. I discussed it with one of the nurserymen, and we decided that it was worth trying in a 20-gallon pot with regular root and branch pruning. It is simply too lovely for words right now, all bare except for 10 big fat fuzzy buds and one enormous unspeakably delicious flower. I decided that a deciduous tree would actually be quite convenient for this small space (the patio is only 19 feet by 11 feet), since there are few hours of sun on this patio during the winter, and I can just tuck the bare magnolia into one of the darker corners for its rest, thus leaving more light for winter bloomers.

One big blossom on "Tropicana," my bright orange hybrid tea rose, is slightly open and very smelly. I chose this rose as a potted specimen because of its obvious vigor and because its buds were strongly perfumed long before they opened. I've had to deal with a bit of powdery mildew and rust in recent months, but that was my fault because I wasn't hosing it down often enough. The miraculous, safe, all-purpose pesticide, paraffinic oil, has taken care of those problems and the aphids (which are just horrid this year).

The fuchsia (fuchsia pink and white) has not stopped blooming for one single day since I got it as a tiny squirt in a 4-inch pot last year. Still covered in flowers, it's in a big growth spurt now, promising to become a quite stately hanging ornament by June.

All of the cyclamens are blooming their hearts out, though I finally found today what was wrong with my newest friend: it was broken right at the corm. Clearly suffering, as evidenced by the constant slight wilt of the leaves, it nevertheless continued to put out several blooms at a time. Though a large part of the plant broke off finally today, there are still enough leaves for it to make a comeback soon, and there are even some undamaged flower buds.

Two hybiscuses, one of which was a rescue-plant, have also been in full bloom all winter. The one that I bought as a pup, "Mrs. Jimmy Spangler," is now in a 5-gallon pot. Its flowers (of which there are about 20 right now) fades from bright red in the center through shades of orange to bright yellow on the edge. The rescue-plant was handed over, gray, dry, rootbound and leafless, by the apartment manager last winter, along with a similar specimen. I cut them back to almost nothing and gave them a temporary potting just to see if anything was left. One of these is now a 4-foot wide, deep green ball dotted all over with the sweetest, purest-yellow flowers imaginable. They are painful to look at, they are so bright. (Its fellow is still struggling with about 10 chronically chlorotic leaves growing out of its 6-inch stump; but where there's green, there's hope.)

Alyssum makes a fantastic hanging basket plant. Why waste that heady perfume on the ground when you can grow it at shoulder-level? Mine is in bloom now right next to the door, so that the first thing I smell in the morning is the scent of honey. It shares its pot with a Chinese blue fan plant, also blooming.

One of the more spectacular sights is the blue hibiscus (alyogyne huegelii). In summer its flowers last only a day or two, closing up at night and opening again in the morning. But in winter they can last all week. Mine, in a 5-gallon pot, is now coming into full bloom, with two flowers fully open and about 20 buds on the way.

I was very diligent about acquiring bulbs this year, and have been potting up a few at a time once a week. The paperwhites are all done now. But the hyacinths, which for me are the smell of Easter, have just begun to scent the air, and can very conveniently come inside for the evening, along with the winter stock.

And all the while making a sweet and steady backdrop, two solanum--a Paraguay nightshade tree in deep blue, and a blinding-white jasmonoides vine growing up the lattice.

Expected this month on the patio: Cistus purpureus in a 5-gallon pot; Tibouchina in a 5-gallon, on a short break from blooming; Rhaphiolepsis "Ballerina" in a 5-gallon; Epidendrum (a terrestrial orchid with sprays of small, orange-red flowers) in a two-gallon; the boronia , in a 5-gallon, is positively bursting with buds (SURPRISED? I was!!); a pink bouvardia in a 6-inch pot--a nice little bloomer that I tried to kill when I discovered it had mites but which survived anyway; pittosporum, which I'm trying to shape into a small tree, in a 5-gallon; several pots of freesia; and a bowl of dark multicolored pansies, if the rats ever stop eating the blossoms!

Tom asked me how many plants there are in this mere 209 square feet, set 4-feet below groundlevel in a deep canyon of La Jolla. (There's a picture of him soldering in it, in his journal.) Answer: I have no idea. Is there room for more? Always. In fact, this patio is frequently used as a half-way house for convalescent plants that my friends have tried to kill. It's all in the placement, based on analysis of all relevant factors in this unique little environment, including how each plant interacts with and affects the others (yes, that's what I said).
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The camellias are making an absolutely ridiculous show above the primroses. I was beside myself when I found that these and the tea trees and the magnolia would all be in top form for Tom's visit--I don't think the garden has ever been quite so cooperative. Despite the rain, everything still looks fabulous, except that that dash of hail finally destroyed the one rose blossom that had hung on for 20 days. I like the way the brilliant colors stand out against the grayness of SpringWinter.
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2001_09_09:23: Unnamed

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Brugmansia flowers make fantastic bouquets. They're extravagantly frilly and pretty upturned in a vase. And as evening comes, even the cut specimens are fragrant. "Plena" is especially nice, because you get to see down inside the trumpet to the inner twist of petals.

Another nice thing is that there are so many flowers that I don't mind cutting off a handful. I took 6 blossoms off my brugmansia tonight. They're slightly green still, another thing I hadn't noticed before.
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2001-04-05:02: Porn, Dogs, and Seduction.html

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2002_02_25:12: Stargazer Rising

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Patio specimens I forgot to mention last time:

Voodoo has opened the first of its 6 very long buds. It was mad at me all last year for giving it fertilizer, and I think it only put out maybe 3 blossoms. Since I've been good, it's giving me another chance.

Single mixed and varigated Impatiens, sprouting from seed absolutely everywhere. Hence the name.

Camellia, in semi-double pink. It's tag said merely "Sport" in handwriting. I don't know whether that's supposed to be a named cultivar, or they just mean that it was a sport. So I've made that its given name. It makes a ton of buds, more than it can open. Just now opening its first bud. It's good to have some late camellias as well as early ones.

Indoor Experiments

Brunfelsia, blooming in the livingroom, with just a brief touch of late afternoon sun.

Saintpaulia (African violet), blooming on my desk, with about 2 hours of late afternoon sun through the plate glass; in bloom, and making new buds.

Euphorbia pulcherrima (Poinsettia), blooming and growing in the upstairs conservatory (aka the bedroom), with about 3 hours of afternoon sun.

Dietes iridiodes (Forthnight Lily), blooming
in the conservatory

Jasminum polyanthum (Pink Jasmine), in full, fragrant bloom in the conservatory, with about 4 hours of afternoon sun. Note Well: In a brief chat with one of the certified nurserymen at Home Depot, I announced what I planned to do with my then-budding jasmine and he said it wouldn't work. "It's an outdoor plant," he said, by way of explanation. Well, what plant isn't an outdoor plant? It's not like the plants that are typically used indoors evolved indoors. The only relevant questions are, What does the plant need? and Can I provide what the plant needs indoors? Clearly, I can provide what a pink jasmine needs indoors. QED. This is the difference between a mere certified nurseryman, and a horticultural stylist. I bet my bedroom smells a lot better than his.

Bougainvillea spectabilis "Royal Purple", just finishing a luxurious bloom, in the conservatory, with about 4 hours of afternoon sun. (I didn't bother mentioning to the nurseryman that I planned to put a bougainvillea in the bedroom along with the pink jasmine. I'm sure he would have told me it wouldn't work.

Hibiscus rosa-sinesis, in sunshine yellow, blooming with about 2.5 hours of sun in the conservatory. This is the rescue plant that the manager had given me about 3 years ago, just a dry, gray stump with some branches as brittle as dry spaghetti, and no rootball. I lopped the stump to 4 inches. Now it is 7 feet tall. Contrary to lore, not all hibiscuses love heat, sunshine, and draught; this one hates all three. Once there was no room for it on the patio anymore, I moved it to the bedroom where it could luxuriate in the cool shade. Lovely to wake up to those big bright yellow blooms.

Apparently rooting:

Beaumontia, in little pots with plastic bags over them.

Fuchsias (Southgate, Nicci's Findling), outside in the cold, with no covers.

Cestrum nocturnum (Nightblooming jasmine), outside, no covers.

Roses, species undetermined. Gaile went to the annual rose pruning extravaganza at Balboa Park, where they instructed her to take a handful of sticks and put them in soil to root. She gave me a couple. Roses are difficult to grow on this patio, and "Tropicana" takes enough of my energy as it is. I didn't feel like dealing with baby roses, especially unborn baby roses, but I took the sticks. Since I was going away for the week, I stuck them in water. I resisted putting them into soil for another week. I broke down when it was clear that they were making leaves whether I was ready or not. I dipped them in root hormone, but that was as far as I planned to go. Having learned from various fuchsia experiments that fuchsias, at least in La Jolla, don't root in a warm room, I put the rose cuttings out in the cold with the rest of the experiments. They're growing happily.

Hibicus rosa-sinensis "White Wings". Some are rooting in The Rooting Pot (a one gallon pot into which I stick various things when I prune, to see what will happen), and some are in with other plants around the patio, to see who will do best. So far, they are rooting under every condition. The only place they don't root is in the house, where the twigs succumb to gray mold no matter what I do.

Also in The Rooting Pot, apparently doing well, are bougainvillea, fuchsia, jasminum azoricum, and ternstroemia.
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Of all the miraculous things! The feijoah ("Pineapple Guava Tree") is sending out buds! I didn't expect it to bloom this year. It's really just a 10-foot stick with a few branches in a 22-gallon tub. But it's only lost a few silvery leaves and now it will bloom! I'm considering letting it make fruit, as I know I won't have the heart to eat the adorable red-and-white bow-shaped flowers. But I know some other little creatures who would! If those rats climb that tree and eat the flowers I'm going to make rat pie.

The wisteria has finally reawakened, and it looks like there are 3 fat flower buds on the naked branches. Since it's in a pot and I cut it back hard last fall, it probably won't bloom much more than that this year. It's turning into a nice little deciduous patio tree.

The boronia's buds positively smother the branches and they've begun to show a deep magenta. The flowers are supposed to be fragrant; in the meantime the leaves are extremely pungent.

After making a poor display last year and getting kicked off the porch onto the pool deck for the summer, the pittosporum has several hundred buds! This is a great boon for me. It will bloom just in time to replace the magnolia's fruity fragrance and the delicate scent of the camellias. It's a bit late in comparison with the pittosporums around the neighborhood, but I'm glad because I've been congested with a lingering head cold for the past three weeks, and I wouldn't have wanted to miss it.

The pink jasmine is still going full-steam. My outdoor office chair is placed so that it sits behind me and the perpetual breeze pushes the sweet perfume all around my desk.

The dwarf pomogranite that I bought last year in a one-inch pot and transferred conservatively to a one-gallon, is now 8 inches tall has 10 stems and a big fat orange flower bud on each. I don't know how it's going to hold itself up when those buds open, but I don't think it will be possible to let such a tiny plant keep its fruit.

All the camellias, azaleas, and cyclamens are in full bloom with plenty of buds still to open. The alyssum took a month off and is once again filling the air with the scent of warm honey. The fuchsia, also just coming back from a short break during which it carried no more than 3 flowers at a time is growing wildly and putting out buds again.

The red and white tea trees are just winding down after a spectacular winter. They should finish up just about the time the first of the cistus blossoms--which are 3 or 4 to a stalk this year--start popping.

I'd have to give the prize for tenacity to the pink kalanchoe, the primroses, and the San Diego Red bougainvillea this year. They've all been in bloom persistently for the past five months and show no signs of slowing down.

I don't know if my treasured stephanotis is going to make it. It doesn't seem to be recovering from having its bark chewed.
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Fuchsias completely rock. Jingle Bells (single white in cerise red) has as many flowers as leaves.
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2001_04_25:14: Interview With Gail

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I tried to murder the fuchsias. They're blooming so hard that I thought they might be getting hungry, and everything is overdue for fertilizer: last pelletted, slow-release application of Vigoro was December 25th. I thought I only gave them a little, and I didn't think it used to work that fast. But I think some of their roots must have been nearly bare--it's the only explanation. Next morning they all look fine, but at noon I glance up and they're wilting! A few leaves are already burnt. Emergency repairs: Everybody down from the pergola and into the shady depths on cool wet cement. I scrape off the fertilizer-balls along with the top layer of soil, add more moist soil, then water them deeply and spray the leaves. They definitely look better today, but I've lost a few branches. Even the robust "Jingle Bells" is a bit weepy and has a few fried tips. Luckily I had only put about 10 balls on "Baby Blue Eyes," the picky little darling who can't even stand a little bit of sun, and it seems to have escaped all damage. I'm so mad at myself. I could have lost the whole bunch if only an hour or two more had passed before I saw the trouble brewing. Southgate, Blue Eyes, Dollar Princess, Dusky Rose, Swing Time, Winston Churchill, and Silver Queen all are in bloom; Winston Churchill and Silver Queen took the fertilizer the hardest. Dark Eyes, Blue Satin, First Love, Voodoo, all in bud.

Martha Washington geranium "Morwenna" is in full bloom: luscious frilly marroon blossoms with black centers. Of all the plants, the aphids are holding this one most tenaciously: its dense masses of ruffly leaves make it hard to hose off the buggers. Since Morwenna works so hard and uses so much water, it at least doesn't mind being flooded during the daily aphid slaughter.

The boronia is still in bloom, though not quite as fragrant anymore. I think most of the buds are not opening, and maybe they won't.

The deep purple petunias are, as always, a winner. Experience has suggested that it is only the solid deep purple ones that supply the lovely clove-like fragrance, and that they do so reliably. All the rest of the colors smell like latext balloons to me. I got a little six-pack a couple of months ago, stuffed three into a white hanging pot, and the whole thing looks very sweet against the backdrop of the everblooming bougainvillea "San Diego Red" that circles the pergola. Two more went in with the pink winter stock, which usually dies on me at the end of the season; and Marsha got the sixth.

Gayle, the manager, gave me her easter present: a pot of exquisite mauve calla lilies. She's into sparseness these days; a few weeks ago she and Terry gave me a ton of ceramic pots, requesting as payment only that I repot her seddum. That was easy enough. What was tough was finding room for all that stuff. Some of the lest attractive pots I smashed to make drainage shards.

In a large strawberry urn that Terry had to wheel over here on a dolly, I planted the varigated calamondin, and in the 12 side-slots I put white alyssum and lobelia "Crystal Palace"; everything in the urn is in bloom now. I placed the huge thing on a wheeled pot stand, which is the only way to deal with such a big, unplanned acquisition with 360 degrees of plants that need their time in the sun.

In fact, at this point, the more wheels, the better.

Two bright orange, long-stemmed blossoms from the hybrid tea rose "Topicana" grace my table. After two weeks, they've lost their strong perfume, but they still look gorgeous. The flowers were conveniently located on the two lowest branches of the plant, and since I'm training it to be a tree, I cut them off as soon as the buds opened. The tree is now slightly taller than me, with the lowest branch coming out at about bicep-level. In the vase with the roses are sprigs of white solanum jasminoides; not only did the blossoms keep nicely, but the buds opened too--good to know, since I frequently have to remove stray ends and hate to waste the flowers.
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2001_05_15:14: Shape, Size, and Measurements

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now in bloom on my patio
Oh. My god. Fuchsia "Blue Satin" is outrageously gorgeous. I'd never seen it bloom before. It's a tough one, taking full sun all day without complaint, wanting only a nice morning drenching. From tip to tip, the white, triangular sepals span 3 inches; the double corolla is such a dark purple that it was hard to see against today's gray brightness. The plant is prostrate but the whole thing, including the blossoms, is very stiff and sturdy. It's covered with buds, three of which are open.
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2008_06_05:12: Outdoor Details

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now in bloom on my patio
Any casual passerby would naturally assume that my favorite colors are bubblegum pink and construction-worker orange. There is a sea of Oenothera speciosa (Mexican Primroses) and rivers of Nasturtiums, and a tall background of Bougainvillea "Rosenka" which hasn't turned from orange to rose yet. But the careful observer would note that all the blue Agapanthus are blooming. The Martha Washington Geraniums are beginning their next bloom season in deep purple with white picotee. A single Euryops pectinata treelette with shockingly bright yellow daisiy flowers brightens one corner. Several Fuchsias in hanging baskets are working hard in shades of deep purple, lavender, and cherry. White Alyssum is spotted around everywhere. I've been busy perfecting my outdoor office space, leveling the ground for my desk and planting it with Impatiens in deep red, purple, white, and magenta.

I seeded all the edges of the garden last week. The Cosmos are up with their seed leaves already; Larkspur is still thinking about whether it is time yet.

The water shortage will not affect my garden much. My water bill is about $10-$20 per month, including the garden and all indoor use. The more delicate plants are in pots; it's easy to keep those moist. The rest of my collection are satisfied with little water. Cosmos, especially, give much more than they take. One of the primary advantages that I have over many other people is that I don't have "help" in the garden. I throw almost nothing away. With the exception of thorny things or really obnoxious weeds like Burmuda Grass and Wild Barley, anything that I trim off or weed out gets left on the ground to retain moisture and shield the soild from the harsh sun. The Mow-And-Blow guys are a terrible waste. Consider for a moment, a hairdryer. How does it work? It blows a tremendous amount of air at your hair, causing the water to go away, whether it is set on hot or cold. That is exactly how a leafblower works. Only the leafblower is worse, because it doesn't just blow away moisture: it blows away all the protection provided by fallen leaves. You simply can't achieve a good, moist growing environment with that kind of weekly assault going on, no matter how much you turn up the water. And now they are asking you to turn it down. You think about that.
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2001_07_17:17: Physical Things

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now in bloom on my patio
Ah, finally, flower buds cover the nightblooming jasmine. I'm growing my specimen as a little tree, which is about 6 feet tall. The hybrid tea rose "Tropicana" has produce one blossom after a few weeks of green growth. It has five buds on the way. Fuchsias "Baby Blue Eyes", "First Love", "Silver Queen", "Golden Marinka", "White Pixie", "Southgate" and, of course, the relentless "Jingle Bells" are all in full bloom among the big silky purple flowers of the tibouchina. Fuchsias "Dark Eyes", "Nici's Findling", "Guinevere", and "Winston Churchill" are about half-covered in blossoms. Gardenia "Radicans" is blooming steadily, "Veitchi" is just beginning a second round. At the moment, Brugmansia x Candida "Plena" has six open blossoms, 4 more to open at nightfall. It looks like bougainvillea "Raspberry Ice" will finally get out from under the mite plague, nice and bushy and starting to get its variegation back.
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2001_07_06:15: Sundry Aversions

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now in bloom on my patio
Brugmansia x candida "Plena" now opening one new 15-inch long double white flower ever other day, fragrance similar to stargazer lily.

All fuchsias are now full-sized plants and in full bloom, except for "Voodoo" which is still small and "Blue Satin" which is the biggest of the bunch and all bloomed out at the moment. I tacked up a small patch of shade cloth (a recycled mesh laundry bag in cobalt blue); the fuchsias will, for the most part, tolerate the sun, but their flowers don't retain their rich colors as well as they do in the shade. I learned yesterday that the flowers are edible, so I'll be putting some in my green salad tonight. If necessary, tell the police I died as I lived: infiltrated by inflorescenses.

The pale pink nerium is a late bloomer; the highway neriums are winding down now, and mine is just gearing up.

Both gardenias ("Radicans" and "Veitchii") are in full bloom.

After two years of nursing and tending, hibiscus rosa-sinensis "White Wings" has created and opened a single flower, white with red center and stamens. It still will tolerate absolutely no sun, but its growth is lush and deep green.

Never have I seen such a pure, painful white as the blossoms of the hibiscus syricus. Nice bushy shape, dark green leaves, covered with buds, opening about one per day into a convoluted fluffy tuft worthy of a bleach commercial.

I had to move the honeysuckle off the pool deck and onto my patio, by order of the apartment gods. This turned out to be a great boon for me, since now all the fragrance collects in my patio and living room, and Anna, my 9-year-old neighbor, can't get to the plant to pluck off all the flowers. She's a sweet child but she simply cannot control her lust for sugar.

Gail liked my tibouchina urvilleana so much that she had to go out and buy one even before my first blossoms opened. It's a stately thing now, six feet tall and 4 feet wide, surrounded by royal purple blossoms. She was forced to borrow it briefly when the workers came to rebuild the dry-rotted pergola, and its fuzzy leaves and red buds made a strong impression on her by making her fence more interesting a backdrop to her own garden. I bought the tibouchina on sale for $2, a $15 plant reduced for quick sale because it had been reduced to dry twigs by the garden center staff. Rescue-plants are like pound-dogs.

Everything needs fish emulsion; I just have to work up the energy and find the time to give it to them.

I'm allergic to ants and sphagnum peat moss, I just learned this month. The ants bite and leave trails on my skin which then turn into hives; the peat moss gets into my lungs and makes me cough with each breath. Last night to get some rest I had to cover the soil of the rubber tree in my bedroom with plastic. I'll either have to get it out of there (no idea where I'll put it! It's HUGE!)

The pomegranite is 8 inches tall, 8 inches round, and covered with fluffy orange blossoms.

Inside, the cattleya that didn't bloom last year and looked dead for about 8 months has made two baby plants at the tip of its one remaining bulb. I think I've figured the orchid thing out now: mist once in the morning and ignore them; drench once a month in the shower, and never throw anything away or cut anything off until it shivels and turns brown. But it's slow going and kind of boring. Who needs orchids when there are fuchsias?

Surprisingly, the white mandevillea has a pretty, light fragrance. I think every one of these plants in Southern California has a severe mite infestation. I treated mine diligently for six months after obtaining it, and it is now healthy, strong, and, most importantly, does not have crinkly leaves. A mite-free specimen.

Distictus Riversii seems to be done blooming already! :-( It was pretty while it lasted, reddish-purple trumpets with bright yellow throats, but come on. I wasted a 15-gallon pot, a trellis, and all that attention for 10 blossoms?

In summary, the current fragrances are purple petunias, honeysuckle, alyssum, brugmansia, stargazer, gardenia, South African jasmine, star jasmine, pink jasmine, brunfelsia. Still no night-blooming jasmine; I think something might have eaten the flower buds.

Just color: Martha Washington geranium "Morwenna", Chinese blue fan, impatiens, lobelia, pomegranite, kalanchoe, sedum, epidendrum, hibiscus syracuse and rosa-sinensis, alyogyne, euryops, convolvulus, plumbago, nerium, bougainvillea San Diego and Raspberry Ice, Paraguay nightshade, tibouchina, solanum jasminoides, mixed gladiolus, cyclamens, and the fuchsias (Dark Eyes, Guinevere, Flying Cloud, Golden Marinka, First Love, Dusky Rose, Baby Blue Eyes, Southgate, Dollar Princess, Silver Queen, Jingle Bells, White Pixie, Winston Churchill).
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2001_04_10:18: Irrational Man

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now in bloom on my patio
It won't bloom for a month or two, but the dwarf Meyer Lemon I cut down in February to kill the citrus bud mites has sproutly leaves, and they look good.

I don't like the trellis for the pink jasmine. That jasmine just wants to be floppy anyway. When I cut it back, I'm going to repot it in a hanging basket, and give the trellis to the distictus.
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2001_09_03:14: All Natural

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now in bloom on my patio
The two orange blossoms from tea rose "Tropicana" just disintegrated after 2 weeks on my dining room table. When I first brought the buds inside, I noticed that the petals of one were tied together with spider thread. Afraid that the bud would be prevented from opening, I pulled the thread away. Time-lapse photographically, the hidden whorl of petals unfolded, rotating simultaneously, and within 5 seconds my rose had opened.


leptospermum scoparium, Ruby Red and Snow White
solananum rantonettii
solanum jasmonoides
impatiens, double and single, all colors
ivy geranium
kalanchoe, pink and yellow
Martha Washington geranium "Morwenna"
stargazer lilies
South African jasmine
brugmansia x candida "Plena"
tuberous begonia (third year)
hibiscus "Mrs. Jimmy Spangler"
primrose (just the yellow one)
fuchsias "Dark Eyes, "Silver Queen", "Dusky Rose", "First Love", "Nicci's Findling", "Baby Blue Eyes", "Jingle Bells", "Winston Churchill", "Golden Marinka", "Guinevere"

In Full Bud

hibiscus "White Wings"
rhododendron satsuki "Daishuhai"
bougainvillea "San Diego Red"
bouvardia (pink stripes)
fuchsia "Voodoo", "Flying Cloud", "Blue Satin", "Dollar Princess"

In Fruit


Still Taking Their Good Ol' Time

bleeding heart
variegated bougainvillea "Raspberry Ice"
South Carolina jessamine
Meyer lemon
navel orange

Sad News

An attack of scale killed my precious 3-year-old boronia this month. I hadn't looked closely at it for a few weeks, and one day while rearranging the nether regions I found that every stem was thoroughly coated with the insects. I sprayed with parafinic oil and the scale were dead and falling off within 2 hours; then I washed the oil and scale off with water. But it was too late. I will leave the dried remains of the plant in the shade for a while, just in case there's any life left in it, but I'm not hopeful. Having never seen any pest on it at all, I assumed it was safe and didn't pay much attention to it. I'll replace the plant--the strong winter fragrance and bright color is not to be missed--and be much more vigilant this time.
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now in bloom on my patio
The pink jasmine is miffed at me today. This specimen of Jasminum polyanthes is one of the oldest and most important plants on the Ray patio, and I forgot to mention it yesterday's long list. The first ten of about 2000 buds opened yesterday. I got this plant for $4 three years ago, in a one gallon pot. It's now in a 6-gallon clay pot with a 5-foot metal trellis. I was amused to see a similar but smaller specimen in the garden center this week, for $75. You'd think that that price would indicate that they are hard to grow. Absolutely pest-free, it only needs to have a few dried branches removed every year. It blooms heavily (starting yesterday) and continuously for a couple of months, then sporatically until fall. I give it a prominent place while it's blooming, but otherwise I just push it into a corner and ignore it. A very good alternative for people who love fragrant flowers but can't make a gardenia bloom.

Pink jasmine blossoms are especially precious to me. They're quite cute: pink buds open into five shocking white petals held on a pink tubular base. But of course, you could get something similar from solanum jasminoides. It's the stunning fragrance that makes the difference, and commands absurd prices at the nursery. Extremely sweet and strong but somehow not overpowering the way star jasmine (trachelospermum) or night blooming jasmine (cestrum) can be. And though the flowers are small and the sprays short, they make excellent cut flowers for a tiny bud vase, and one sprig will perfume the house for a couple of weeks. The plant itself is slightly floppy and casual, but it's worth the tangle.

I hope this tribute absolves me of my forgetfulness, dear jasmine. I've waited anxiously for you all season.
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now in bloom on my patio
Ladybugs are in bloom!

Are ladybugs that you buy at the store and set loose in the garden considered wild or domestic?

The aphids are really terrible this Spring I, even despite daily washing of the plants with the hose. All of the growing points of the daisy and the cistus are packed with them. I've been anxiously awaiting the first appearance of ladybugs in the nurseries, and Sunday I finally got some. Sunday evening the meteorologists were predicting rain, so I gave the garden the last spraying for now, and in the evening I stationed 2 or 3 bugs on each plant. People tell me that they have trouble with them flying away, but that only happens if you shake out a box of wide-awake bugs in the sun. The trick is to chill them in the refrigerator, and spread them around in the evening before they warm up. That way they sleep in the plants and wake up to a sumptuous breakfast of softbodied insects. Finding room service to be satisfactory, they stick around, sometimes for weeks.

You have to put them near the base of the stems, because they are wired to crawl upward and follow any path to its end, which on plants is the growing tip or the flower bud, which is right where you want them because that's where the aphids go too.

The next morning I check the conservatory plants. Aphids! So I get three bugs and set them to work. I'd never seen a ladybug actually attack an aphid before, so I watch for a while to make sure they're doing their jobs. Sure enough. I am disappointed to see the ladybugs politely excuse themselves when they run into one of the large aphids; but they pounce on the small ones quite viciously, so I'm satisfied to squish the big ones myself. In the garden below, there are charming orange dots decorating all the plants. There's a little bit of bug-warming sun early in the morning. But the Spring rains are coming and it's a little chilly and gray, so the ladybugs are slowing down. Several cold bugs are balled up together behind the snow-white petals of one cyclamen flower. On the cistus, one bug is dutifully jammed head-first between the leaves at the tip of each stem, draining the life out of the enemy. Thank you, bugs.

And now in late afternoon, having stuffed themselves on the buffet, the ladybugs pay me the great compliment of pairing up (and sometimes grouping up) and having sex in various sunny spots--a bug's way of saying that this bed'n'breakfast ain't half-bad.
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2002_02_18:12: Winter Plant List

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now in bloom on my patio

Plants Blooming or Budding Now:


Fragrant shade plants in bloom:

Daphne odora; clustered flowers pink and white inside, purple out; smells exactly like the classic cologne "4711"
Camellia japonica "Kramer's Supreme"; brilliant red peony form; smells like the wax used to make chewable Halloween toys such as wax flutes.
Brunfelsia australis; purple flowers that turn blue, then white; smells similar to Stargazer lilies

Fragrant shade plants in bud:

Brunfelsia pauciflora "Floribunda"

Fragrant part-shade plants in bloom:

Osmanthus fragrans (Sweet Olive); extremely tiny flowers have a heavy, sweet fragrance that I can't describe
Myrtus communis "Compacta"; sweet and slightly turpentine
Jasminum polyanthum (Pink Jasmine); flowers white with pink bases, very strong and sweet
Heliotropium arborescens 'Lord Robert'; smells like vanilla
Epidendrum ibaguense (Crucifix Orchid); just a slight undefinable orchidy scent, for a few afternoon hours

Fragrant part-shade plants in bud:

Gardenia augusta "Veitchii"
Gardenia augusta "August Beauty"
Gardenia augusta "Mystery"
Gardenia augusta "Radicans"
Gardenia augusta "White Gem"

Fragrant sun plants in bloom:

Senecio rowleyanus (String of Beads); white clove-scented tufts not much bigger than the spherical leaves
Senna artemisiodes (Feathery Cassia); bright yellow; can't classify the sweet scent
Dianthus Modern Pink "Allwoodii"; clove-scented single pink flowers
Citrus limon "Improved Meyer" (Dwarf Meyer Lemon); flowers and leaves smell like lemon lollipops
Lantana camara (smells vaguely of mint but accompanied by strong weedy odor that I'm learning to like; flowerheads open pink and yellow and mature to orange and red)

Fragrant sun plants in bud:

Magnolia soulangiana "Athena" (deciduous; spring bloom; 10-inch flowers, white inside, purple outside, smell like Hawaiian Punch)
Magnolia grandiflora "Little Gem" (evergreen, leaves glossy dark green above, with rusty fuzzy undersides; spring-summer-fall bloom; 5-inch white flowers, classic intoxicating magnolia fragrance at human nose level (slow to 15 feet)

Just Color

Blooming in full Shade, just color:

Cyclamen persicum, in smooth hot pink and ruffled white with red edges
Camellia japonica (pink rose form)
Primula, Polyanthus Group, in blue, purple, yellow, and red

Blooming in full Sun, just color:

Bougainvillea Royal Purple (brilliant purple)
Bougainvillea Rosenka (orange/pink/rose)
Bougainvillea Carmen (deep purplish-red)
Bougainvillea San Diego Red (bright red)
Strelizia (Bird of Paradise)
Diascia "Blackthorn Apricot)
Euryops pectinatis "Viridis" (brilliant yellow petals and centers)
Tibouchina urvilleana (Princess Flower) (large, flat deep purple flowers with prominent tangly stamens)
Kalanchoe blossfeldiana (hot pink and orangish yellow)
Crassula ovata (Jade Tree) (star shaped pinkish white flowers)
Duranta erecta (Sky Flower) (sweet light blue flowers, very dark green leaves, very well-behaved, neat, upright woody plant)

Blooming in mostly shade, just color:


Budding in mostly shade, just color:

Dietes irisiodes

Blooming in mostly sun, just color:

Leptospermum scoparium "Snow White" (double white; dark green leaves and seeds)
Leptospermum scoparium "Ruby Red" (double deep red; dark red leaves, black seeds)
Leptospermum scoparium "Apple Blossom" (double pink; reddish green leaves, reddish green seeds)
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis "Mrs. Jimmy Spangler" (single flowers red at based fading to yellow at edges)
Bougainvillea "Royal Purple"
Bougainvillea "Rosenka"
Bougainvillea "Carmen"
Coleonema pulchellum "Compactum" (Pink Breath of Heaven)

Blooming in full sun, just color

Bougainvillea "San Diego Red"
Euphorbia pulcherrima (Poinsettia), in bright red, and marbled pink and dark red
Strelizia (Bird of Paradise)
Coreopsis (Mouse Ear Coreopsis)
Pelargonium (Ivy Geranium) (blinding white with delicate lines of maroon)
Cistus purpureus


Fuchsias In full bloom:

First Love (bushy upright; white and pink sepals, semi-double lavendar corollas)
Silver Queen (slightly upright; pink sepals, semi-double lavender corolla)
Southgate (upright with very long weeping branches; huge light pink double flowers)
Flying Clouds (upright; pure white single flowers)
Jingle Bells (upright; deep fuchsia sepals, single pure white corolla)
Dollar Princess (upright; deep fuchsia sepals, deep purple very formal double corolla)
Winston Churchill (upright; deep fuchsia sepals, purple and lilac frilly double corolla)

Fuchsias In full bud:

Guinivere (slightly upright; white sepals, blue corolla)
Dusky Rose (trailing; very large, whorled flowers
Baby Blue Eyes (trailing to bushy; very rounded flower shape, deep fuchsia sepals, double lavender corolla, usually with just one dark blue petal)
Golden Marinka (trailing; leaves splotchily varigated with white and light yellow; fuchsia sepals and deeper red corollas)
Voodoo (slightly upright; long

Fuchsias Growing madly, not blooming:

White Pixie (upright; small flowers, bubblegum pink sepals, single white corolla)
Nicci's Findling (upright; small flowers, peach sepals, raspberry corolla)

Fuchsias Just Sitting There:

Blue Satin (bushy to upright; huge flowers, white sepals, double blue/lavendar corolla)
"Dark Eyes"

Evergreen Shrubs, Trees, And Vines Not Blooming Or Budding Right Now:

Just color

Feijoa sellowiana (Pineapple Guava Tree)
Hibiscus rosa-sinesis "White Wings"
Convolvulus tricolor "Blue Ensign" (Bush Morning Glory), from seed
Mandevillea x amoena "Alice Dupont"
Mandevillea sanderi "My Fair Lady"
Disticus riversii (Royal Trumpet Vine)

Fragrant flowering plants resting or just growing:

Rosa Hybrid Tea "Tropicana"
Stephenotis floribunda (Madagascar Jasmine)
Citrus Calamondin (Sour Acid Mandarin, varigated)
Citrus Sweet Orange (Navel)
Acacia baileyana
Choisya ternata (Mexican Orange)
Murraya exotica (Orange Jessamine)
Trachelospermum jasminoides (Star Jasmine)
Cestrum Nocturnum (Night Blooming Jasmine)
Eleagnus pungens "Fruitlandii"
Hoya carnosa (Wax Flower)
Brugmansia x Candida "Plena" (Angel's Trumpet)
Lonicera japonica (Japanese Honeysuckle)
Wisteria sinesis
Sarcoccoca confusa (Sweet Box)
Beaumontia grandiflora (Herald's Trumpet)
Ternstroemia gymnanthera
Lathyrus odoratus (Sweet Pea), seedlings

Just Color, resting or growing:

Bougainvillea "Orange King"
Bougainvillea "Raspberry Ice"

Just Food:

Just sprouting from seed:

Nasturtium officinale (Watercress)

In bud:

Psidium cattleianum (Strawberry Guava)

Just growing

Mentha peppermint